For readers of Khaled Hosseini and Nadia Hashimi, a powerful, vivid story of a family’s search for home and belonging, set against a brutal dictatorship and the promise of refuge in Canada.
Raju is drawn to Uganda by the desire for a better life. Over two generations, Raju and his family carve a niche for themselves and form a deep connection to the land in the midst of a racially stratified colonial and post-colonial society.
Their world is thrown into upheaval when brutal dictator Idi Amin comes to power. The family struggles to carry on until, in 1972, Amin expels 80,000 South Asians from the country. Raju, his children and their children have ninety days to flee as Uganda descends into unimaginable chaos and murder. Forced out, toward the shores of England and Canada, the family must find a place to land and a way to start again, even while the ties of Africa draw them back.
Where the Air Is Sweet is a vivid, engrossing portrait of a family caught up in the larger forces of world affairs. Despite tragedy and displacement, their story is one of hope and resilience, and finally, homecoming.
About the author
TASNEEM JAMAL was born in Mbarara, Uganda, and immigrated to Canada with her family in 1975. She has worked as a journalist for over a decade as an editor at The Globe and Mail, Saturday Night magazine and the National Post. She has written fiction and non-fiction for the Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad, The Globe and Mail, Saturday Night magazine, the National Post and the Literary Review of Canada. She lives in Kitchener with her husband and two daughters.
“Beautifully written and brimming with intelligence. A wonderful debut.” — Katrina Onstand, author of the Giller Prize nominatee Everybody Has Everything
“This story is at turns engrossing, shocking, beautiful, yet revolting in its dark reality. But it is an important history of a displaced diaspora searching for a place in this world to call home.” — The Globe and Mail
“Readers are drawn into the family’s hard-won victories, only to share the acute disbelief and unimaginable pain people must feel when, in a heartbeat, their entire reality shifts from a firm foundation filled with everyday life to a nightmare of violence and homelessness.” — Toronto Star
“Where the Air Is Sweet is a story of family, but it is also a story of rights—the rights of women, the rights of citizens, the rights of humanity. . . . . Beautifully written and deeply emotional.” — National Post
“Jamal has woven a large cast of characters spanning three generations and three continents into an engrossing tale of race, gender and family relations with a sophisticated eye to their culture origins, and an appreciation for life in Canada, ‘where the air is sweet.’” — Winnipeg Free Press
“With her graceful, confident prose, Jamal creates a world so real it pulsates with vitality and tenderness. Her characters straddle the permeable, ever-shifting line between homes, between overlapping identities, between longing and belonging, desire and hope.” — Ayelet Tsabari, author of The Best Place on Earth, winner of the Sami Rohr Prize
“Big of heart and mind, Tasneem Jamal’s powerful debut novel exposes the fragility of belonging and, with its sweeping historical eye, brings home the true meaning of Canada.” — Carrie Snyder, author of the Governor General’s Award–nominated The Juliet Stories